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Meet our Research Peer Advisors (AY 2019-2020)

Maura De Palma 

Environmental and Sustainability Science, Class of 2020
picture of Maura De Palma

Maura De Palma is a senior majoring in Geosciences and minoring in Sustainability and Mathematics. She is a Peer Adviser to six bright recruits and is excited to help guide them along their research journey. She is excited to see their projects develop and watch them grow in strong researchers.  Maura has conducted research with Dr. Juyoung Ha to test soil samples from the New Jersey Pine Barrens to see which restoration method was the most effective. She also went to China last summer to collect soil samples and do a similar study. This summer Maura had an internship with the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) at a lab on Princeton University's campus where she analyzed two computer models to see how carbon dioxide emissions affect ocean acidification. Maura is the President of the Earth Science Club, a Resident Assistant (RA), and a part of the McNair and LSAMP programs. Her goal after Kean is to attend graduate school to get a Ph.D. in Seismology and help predict when the destructive San Andreas earthquake will occur.

Maura's take on Research:

1. What is your research study?

Our lab group is centered around soil science. Currently, we're focusing on biochar, which is burned organic material and comparing its physicochemical properties to the compost produced at Kean. Biochar is an alternative solution to removing heavy metal contaminants, such as lead, chromium, and cadmium, while also introducing carbon to the soil to improve plant growth. The goal of our study is to see how well our biochar is at removing chromium and zinc from soil. 

2. Why is this research project important to you?

I am passionate about the environment and would like to help restore it to its natural state. We only have one Earth so we need to care for it. This research is one way where I can help find alternatives or solutions to environmental problems to improve the quality of life for both us and the planet. 

3. Did you always know you wanted to do research in your field?

No, I did not always know. I always found school labs fun and interesting since we got to apply what we learned through hands-on activities. In my sophomore year of college, one of my professors asked if I wanted to join her research team and I thought it would be a great opportunity to apply what I was learning in the classroom. It's one thing to understand the concepts in the classroom, but it's another thing to physically see these concepts occurring right in front of you and understanding why the results are the way that they are. 

MENTOR EXPERIENCE:

1. Your First mentor experience

My first mentor was my section leader in my high school marching band. He helped increase my confidence and improve the skills I needed for the marching band. He also helped me become acclimated to high school and gave advice on classes and other extracurricular activities. 

2. How has your mentor experience at Kean been?

Dr. Juyoung Ha at the Environmental and Sustainability department is my faculty mentor. She is very knowledgeable and pushes me to be the best. I never thought I would end up where I am, but she has encouraged me the entire time to keep going and to reach a little further each time. She has given me the opportunity to conduct research in China and Italy, and to present at conferences in Orlando and all over New Jersey.  I could not ask for a better mentor. 

3. Why have you decided to become a CURF research mentor?

Research is something I have become passionate about. To get hands-on experience and the opportunity to contribute towards advancing innovation is amazing. I want to help my recruits build up their confidence and their research skills, and prove to them that they CAN accomplish their projects and reach their objectives. 

4. One piece of advice you would like to give to new student researchers

Don't give up! The research process can be a long and frustrating process at times, especially when you reach obstacles. But when you persevere and overcome it is such a satisfying feeling. 

Jeremy Gusset

Architecture, Class of 2020
Picture of Jeremy Gusset

Jeremy Gusset is a 4th-year Architecture student. He has conducted two research projects with the support of LSAMP and the McNair Scholars program. Under the guidance of his faculty advisor Craig Konyk, Jeremy has been able to research projects he is passionate about. His first research project was the study of prefabrication and modularity. During this study, he visited Kean Wenzhou to study Chinese Joinery. His second research project inspired by his time studying abroad in Rome focused on the restoration of cemeteries and how the cemetery itself can become a space that is used by both the dead and the living. Jeremy has served on the E-Board of Kean Hillel, and the American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS). He has participated in two Kean alternative spring breaks where has volunteered with Habitat for Humanity. He has also visited Costa Rica and Puerto Rico with Kean on humanitarian trips. Jeremy is currently interning for Facilities and Campus Planning. Upon graduation, he hopes to attend graduate school and receive an M-Arch Degree. His ultimate goal is to start his own business. 

Jeremy's take on Research:

1. What is your research study about?

My research is about the activation of dead spaces. I chose to focus on cemeteries because they exist in every community throughout the world. These universal spaces were originally designed to be used by both the dead and the living. My solution was to design an architectural intervention that would bring people back into these spaces.

2. Why is this project important to you?

This particular subject is important to me because during my time studying abroad in Rome I visited Poland. where I found some forgotten cemeteries. The tombstones had graffiti on them and some were in multiple pieces. At that moment I wanted to find a solution that would bring people back into these places to preserve the memories of the people who had passed away. 

3. Did you always know you wanted to do research in your field?

I never conscientiously knew, but deep down I always did. In Architecture, before we begin any project there is a series of research that must come first. This forces us to learn about the context and history of the site. It also teaches us to find precedents. Ultimately we are standing on the shoulders of every project that came before us. My Professor Linnea Moore told me once in class: "If you want to be really great at something, you must become obsessed with it."

MENTOR EXPERIENCE:

1. Your First mentor experience

My first mentor experience was in Marlboro high school with Ms. Mango. It was my senior year and I finally had the opportunity to take her Architecture class. It was the first time in my life that I stayed at school late and skipped lunch to work on my project. She not only pushed me to do well, but she also made sure I had the resources to excel.

2. How has your mentor experience at Kean been?

I have been extremely lucky working beside Professor Craig Konyk. He is one of the committed people I have ever met. He is always accessible and approachable. When working with Professor Craig, he focuses on what's positive in the idea and helps to work through it to make it realistic. Together we have worked on two major research projects "Architecture for All" and "Living Cemetery." Craig has become more of a life coach than a professor to me. He has given me the tools and confidence to achieve everything I've set out to achieve at Kean.

3. Why have you decided to become a CURF research mentor?

My experience at Kean and as a researcher has been really positive. It has made me a fuller person and it has also helped me solidify what I want to spend my life doing. I want to give that experience back to students who have not yet had it. Everyone deserves a chance.

4. One piece of advice you would like to give to new student researchers

Find a mentor and topic that aligns with your academic interests. If you have that foundation, you can accomplish anything.

Syed Fahad Nadeem - Computer Science, Cyber Security Option

Computer Science, Cybersecurity Option, Class of 2020
picture of Syed Fahad Nadeem

Syed Fahad Nadeem is a senior currently studying Computer Science with a concentration in Cybersecurity and a minor in Mathematical Sciences. He has conducted two research projects with Dr. Ching-Yu Huang under the McNair Scholars program with subjects relating to data visualization and social media development. He is currently assisting in the development of a chatbot for Dr. Han in the School of Management and Marketing under the FFRA grant. He has presented his research at 2019 Kean Research Days and has had his research work published at the 2018 International Conference on Computational Science and Computational Intelligence (CSCI). Syed is currently a student worker at The Office of Research and Sponsored Program and serves on the E-Board for the Association for Computing Machinery where he is Vice President. After finishing his undergraduate degree, Syed will be attending Kean for one more year to complete his Master’s in Computer Information Systems (CIS).  

Syed's take on Research:

1. What is your research study about?

I am currently doing an independent study on MongoDB which is a document-oriented database system. This study involves looking at how to implement MongoDB with NodeJS. In the end, I would like to create a website that uses MongoDB to store everything and NodeJS to run everything.

2. Why is this important to you?

This is important to me because I am currently interested in working with databases, so learning more about different types of databases will give me a better understanding of both relational and document-oriented databases.

3. Did you always know you wanted to do research in your field?

When I first entered college, I had never really thought about conducting research. Once I started to do research, I realized the importance of it and how it has helped my college career. It allowed me to focus on one topic relating to my field I would highly recommend every student to conduct at least one research project in their college career.

MENTOR EXPERIENCE:

1. Your First mentor experience

My First Mentor is my current faculty advisor Dr. Ching Yu Huang in the Department of Computer Science

2. How has your mentor experience at Kean been?

My mentor experience at Kean has been very helpful to my college career and self-growth. I received many opportunities because of my mentor. He has helped me with numerous project ideas, guided me through the research process, and advised me with finding internships. I know that I would not have been here without his guidance and support.

3. Why have you decided to become a CURF research mentor?

I wanted to become a CURF research mentor because I wanted to help students and build a connection with my peers. Some of the students I mentor with are one to two years behind where I am so being able to give advice to them regarding research and college, in general, is the way I want to give back.

4. One piece of advice you would like to give to new student researchers

Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you are unsure of something. It is a part of the learning process especially for students that have never conducted research before. It is better to ask questions now than to mess-up in the future.

Nicole Skalenko

Honors History, Class of 2020
picture of Nicole Skalenko

Nicole Skalenko is a senior at Kean University and is an Honors History Major. During the 2018- 2019 academic year, she participated in the Research Recruits Program and conducted research with Dr. Elizabeth Hyde. The research project focused on William Livingston, the first elected Governor of New Jersey, and his role as a Propagandist during the American Revolution focusing on the years 1776-1779. In March of 2019, Nicole attended the HERA (Humanities Education and Research Association) Conference in Philadelphia with five of her classmates in the History Honors program and her professors, Dr. Hyde and Dr. Mercantini. Nicole presented a paper on William Livingston and Eighteenth-Century Media that she co-wrote with her classmate, Victor Bretones. Their panel won the HERA Undergraduate Research Award for their research on William Livingston. A shortened version of Nicole and Victor’s paper was published at Columbia University on the John Jay Papers Blog by Dr. Robb Haberman, associate editor of the John Jay Papers. Nicole is continuing her research on William Livingston during the 2019- 2020 academic year and plans on attending more conferences to present her research. Her experience in the program will help current research recruits with all their research needs. After completing her undergraduate degree, Nicole plans on attending graduate school to pursue a Ph.D. in early American History, focusing on the Revolutionary War.

Nicole's take on Research:

1. Tell us about your research study

I am a senior at Kean University and my major is in Honors History. The research I conduct through the History Department is primarily focused on William Livingston. My areas of interest are in the Early Colonial Period, Revolutionary War, and the Early American Republic.  

2. Why is it important to you?

I feel the history, in general, is extremely important. It helps us understand our past and our present, we learn from it to cultivate our future. Additionally, History is a Liberal Arts Major which teaches students a plethora of skills including critical thinking, writing, research, analytical, communication, etc.  

3. Did you always know you wanted to do research in your field?

I have always had an interest in History, especially the Revolutionary War period. I did not really have an opportunity to conduct research in my field until I transferred to Kean University and participated in the ORSP Research Recruits Program.

MENTOR EXPERIENCE:

1. Your First mentor experience

My first experience as a mentor is my position as a peer advisor in the ORSP Research Recruits Program.  

2. How has your mentor experience at Kean been?

My experience as a CURF research mentor has been very fulfilling. I learned a lot from my peer mentor, Orella, last year when I was conducting research as a research recruit. 

3. Why have you decided to become a CURF research mentor?

I decided to become a CURF research mentor because I had such a great experience as a researcher last year. I wanted to be able to instill knowledge and help other students through their research projects and offer them advice based on my experience. 

4. One piece of advice you would like to give to new student researchers.

Being able to work with a faculty mentor who is a professional in their field is an amazing opportunity. I had an incredible opportunity last year to work with History Department Chair, Dr. Hyde, on a project focused on William Livingston in which I examined his role in utilizing eighteenth-century media and print culture during the Revolutionary War. Not only was I able to work with a professional Historian but I also made a lot of connections at other institutions such as Columbia University, Rutgers University, and The David Library as a result of my research project. These connections will help me as I further my education in Graduate School. The ORSP Research Recruits program is a great opportunity for all students, no matter what their major is, and I encourage everyone to look into it.